November 23, 2004 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Greece has decided to finally scrap their 4.8 billion euro ($6.2 billion) agreement with the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) to buy 60 Eurofighter jets (plus a further 30 options).
The present centre-right government which took office last March doesn't feel bound by the decision of the previous Socialist government. They will launch a new tender in 2005 for the purchase of additional fighter jets.
According to the air force's operational needs, about 60 jets are needed. The tender will be open to all bidders.
Lockheed Martin, Dassault Aviation (Rafale) and a venture between BAE
Systems and Saab were rivals in the previous tender but this time Russian Sukhoi fighter jets would also be considered.
's former socialist government, which lost elections in March, had decided in 2000 to buy the Typhoons but a year later delayed delivery until after 2005 due to what it said where budget constraints because of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
The deal was initially for 60 jets with an option for another 30 later.
Greece, one of the biggest defence spenders in Europe due to the traditional rivalry with Turkey
, has in recent years realised that its ambitious arms program is not affordable under current circumstances. It curbed defence costs in a bid to improve ties with Ankara and invested the funds in the Games and social welfare programs.
Last year it slashed a purchase of the NH-90 twin engine, 10 ton multi-role helicopter from EADS' unit Eurocopter by 50 percent, acquiring only 20 choppers instead of 40.
The government is eager to reduce its defence costs, which two years ago were about 5 percent of GDP. Most other European Union members have defence costs at 1.5 percent of GDP or lower.
Greece completed the receipt of 60 F-16 block 52
+ jets last year which leaves their air force well enough equipped to meet current needs, defence analysts say.